Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Temptation of Christ

Folio 161v

This miniature illustrates the text for the first Sunday in Lent, in which Matthew tells of the devil's tempting of Christ after His forty days and nights in the wilderness: "Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me." (Matthew IV: 8-9)
No doubt to please their patron, Paul de Limbourg and his brothers exaggerated the disproportion between the event and its setting. The temptation has been relegated to the background at the top of the miniature, while the Château de Mehun-sur-Yèvre, constructed by the Duc de Berry (who was extremely proud of it), dominates the foreground.
In his Chroniques Jean Froissart called the château "l'une de plus belles maisons du monde" ("one of the most beautiful houses in the world"), and reported that the Duke enjoyed chats there about sculpture and painting with his imagier or draftsman, Andre Beauneveu, "le meilleur en nulle terre" ("the best in the world").
The brother specializing in architectural details has faithfully reproduced this magnificent château as proven by comparison with a drawing executed in 1737, when the castle still stood in its entirety.
We recognize the slender towers, solidly implanted in the glacis bordering the water and crowned with delicate openwork rising above the battlements, and the elegant entrance buildings behind which we see the top of the chapel and its steeple.
All around the mountain upon which Christ stands rise the châteaus and cities symbolizing the riches offered by the devil if Christ will worship him; they apparently represent Poitiers, Bourges, Montlhéry, and the fortress of Nonette in Auvergne. The boats evoke more distant lands.
The Limbourgs imaginatively created this variegated landscape, even finding a place for the Duke's symbols: swans glide along the waters of the Yèvre surrounding the château and a bear has climbed into a tree to escape a lion.
The latter is probably an allusion to some bellicose incident in the Duke's luxurious but often troubled life; only recently he had been besieged by the Burgundians in Bourges, where he was forced to take refuge in the cloister of Notre-Dame to escape the onslaught of an enraged populace.

small image (19KB) --- large image (207KB) --- Christ stands on top of a mountain (large) (206KB) --- Château de Mehun-sur-Yèvre (large) (237KB)

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